The kitchen, bakery, and shipping squads.
The accounting, social media, and sales troupes.
Jeni has always referred to those who bring the ice cream to life and get it to you, the people, as “rock stars.”
So, when we moved the Jeni’s Mothership to a base near the North Market late last year, we knew we wanted the entryway to greet people with something prominent—an image that, well, rocked.
The wall opposite reception, covered in black chalkboard paint, begged for something statement-making.
“I know,” Jeni said one morning. “A rock star. A lady of rock.”
During the course of two weeks, Bobby brought Stevie’s iconic image to life as we taped the entire process. Down the line, we may release a Warholian-style longform version of this and send it to Cannes. But for the time being we have this cool time-lapse documentary:
And now, don’t miss Bobby Silver’s extensive thoughts on his process and stint as a Jeni’s Mothership artist in residence:
“When Jeni’s approached me about doing some chalk art for Jeni’s new headquarters on Front Street I gave them my usual spiel: “Send me photos of what she wants and I’ll send you a quote.”
“I was instantly enamored with the subject matter. One, because I often liken myself to birds, usually a peacock or a seagull. Two, because Stevie Nicks was my first rock concert at Blossom Music Center in the mid ’80s. Three, because—it’s Stevie Nicks, man. Not only is she a force of nature on her own but she fronted one of the the most triumphant bands in rock history.
“My excitement about drawing Stevie with a bird grew after I took a look around her new headquarters. Jeni’s offices are sleek and stylish. I imagined Stevie emerging from the wall in all her gypsy-witch elegance and bursting with color. What an amazingly ideal set up for a pop of magical realism! I knew that she would demand a lot of attention on this lobby wall, which is what you want as an artist.
“After the image was carefully placed I started to draw. I love to draw. I’m not used to drawing in an office atmosphere. I usually draw in the comfort of my own home but I was not too worried. I put on my headphones and I just got into this place that feels like auto-pilot. It blows my mind that in one drawing I make millions of tiny decisions all while usually thinking of something else until I arrive at a roundabout completion. That is my specialty or area of hyper-focus, creativity. There were plenty of artists there to talk creative process.
“A lot of Jeni’s employees are CCAD graduates. I always aim to do my best, but I really wanted to hold myself to a firm standard to any trained eye out there, and made the conscious effort to do so. The hardest thing about the drawing was stepping away from it when Stevie was not looking so hot. After the first day she looked basically like a transvestite version of herself. It’s pretty typical after the first session, but usually no one else can view it. This time I had an audience.
“I was not used to drawing on drywall either. Mostly of what I have worked on are wooden panels. The chalk did not seem to be saturating quite as quickly. The surface was not as forgiving as I am used to. I knew what it was going to take but I knew it would be time consuming.
“Typically I layer chalk until it is the purest form of the desired color with little background showing through. No difference here except that Stevie needed twice the amount of applied color because drywall doesn’t have grain (as wood does). I blend the chalk with my fingers. So, after I apply the color to the wall, I go back in with my fingers and spread the color around and blend it with other colors that were previously applied, then I repeat the process. My fingers can blend and I can also erase with the oils from my fingers. If I need to erase for fine detail I have an eraser that resembles the back end of a school pencil. I also use charcoal blenders (which are tightly wound paper) for blending in detail areas, chalk pastel pencils for detail drawing and a gummy eraser for high-detail erasing.
“Some of the colors respond differently to the surface because the pigment is made up of what seems like a different compound. The reds are particularly challenging. A lot of red is muscled into the surface. At the end of the drawing I usually go back and add a black chalk in the darkest areas to make it even pop more than its black background. I also will lightly run pure color on top of what I have spent time blending to give it an added shimmer to add more color magic.
“Unfortunately, because these chalkboard painted walls were being so unforgiving to arbitrary marks and scuffs I had to re-paint the wall all around the drawing in a jet black satin finish. These things happen. Ask anyone who’s ever made anything. If there is a chance for problems to arise, they will. I needed a high-level finish, and an artist has to do what ever it takes to achieve that finish. If it’s to be, it’s up to me.
“Once I got somewhere on the drawing, I started to chat with the receptionists, Erin and Alexa, and we formed a great friendship during my short stay. We talked a lot about food, music, and our significant others. We agree that although Drake may have every song on his last record on the Billboard charts, he is still a candy-rapper. We all shared our favorite jokes, and by the end of the week we were going to happy hour together. I got a great recipe from Erin for pureed cauliflower with horse-radish. So good!
“Basically, every time I get in a new environment I realize how much I enjoy meeting new people. That is exactly how I got into the portrait biz. I love people. I love to find out how different people are motivated and I love peoples interests and quirks, their brilliance in their expertise, their joys and pains. Endlessly fascinating. Plus, the more friends I have the more it drives my girlfriend crazy, which is something else I enjoy! I kid, I kid!
“Anyways, I found my head bouncing between making art in an office setting and the creative process itself. Some days I would not be able to go all the way in with the creative process and some days I would barely talk to people keeping my headphones in place for the duration. I was constantly looking back and forth to make sure I was not running into anyone coming in or out of the office.
“Sometimes people would come by to observe and sometimes chat. Rachel from accounting informed me that Jeni could taste colors, which absolutely blew my mind. I spent the rest of the day wondering what colors tasted like and to what degree that Jeni might be experiencing this synesthesia. That would definitely be an advantage in her line of work. Jeni and I later concluded that Stevie was a rainbow sorbet! Since then, I’ve been obsessed with this phenomenon.
“Now that Stevie is complete in her purple-blue magic haze and ready to greet you in the lobby, I can only hope that Stevie inspires people as much as she inspired me to work in this great environment with such great people. Now, if you don’t mind I am going to indulge in some of the ice cream fruits of my labor: a pint of Goat Cheese with Red Cherries.”